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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Blair and Putin discuss Kashmir
Tony Blair, left, and Vladimir Putin
The two leaders hope tensions can be calmed
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been discussing efforts to ease the tense stand-off over Kashmir with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

In a 15-minute phone call to Chequers, Mr Blair was briefed on the situation by President Putin, as signs emerged that the rising crisis between India and Pakistan could be easing.

Mr Putin briefed the premier on his meetings with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf - and the hope is that conflict can be averted.

The talks came as UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed British troops were not poised to go into Kashmir to ease what had been bubbling tensions in the region, although he said it was one possible future option.

Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon
Hoon - no immediate role for UK troops

He told the BBC that he was "looking at every option" to prevent India and Pakistan from all-out war.

But he added there were no concrete plans to send troops to guard the disputed province, following earlier hints to that effect.

His comments came after Pakistan claimed to have shot down an unmanned India spy plane on Friday night.

India admitted losing a plane above Pakistan after the two nuclear powers resumed shelling along their tense border overnight, killing three people.

On Saturday, Pakistan lodged a formal protest with India for deliberately violating its airspace.

Helping hand

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme earlier in the day, Mr Hoon said Britain remained determined to play "whatever part we can in allowing India and Pakistan to step back from the brink".

He added: "There are no specific plans to deploy troops but obviously we are looking at every option.


Tensions are down between India and Pakistan

Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State

"We want to give Pakistan and India every reason not to be drawn into an escalation of hostilities and we will do whatever we can with their agreement."

Mr Hoon said the dispute was ultimately between the two countries.

But he added: "If there were to be a very small number of British international troops assisting India and Pakistan along the Line of Control to reduce tension, that might be a way forward.

"But as I say, there are no specific plans to do that at this stage."

Gestures

The possibility of British deployment emerged after Mr Hoon attended a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday.

And the day before, he held talks with his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld in London.

On Saturday, however, in an apparent easing of tensions, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said India was considering returning some of its diplomats to Pakistan.

Returning from the sub-continent Mr Armitage said it was clear "tensions are down" between India and Pakistan.

India was considering making some "military gestures" to lessen tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals, he added.


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08 Jun 02 | South Asia
07 Jun 02 | UK Politics
05 Jun 02 | UK Politics
05 Jun 02 | UK Politics
05 Jun 02 | South Asia
31 May 02 | UK Politics
02 Jun 02 | UK Politics
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